Authorship and Authority:

Barking Abbey and Its Texts

Martin E. Segal Theater

CUNY Graduate Center, September 11, 2009

“Goscelin of Canterbury and the Translation Ceremony for Ethelburga, Hildelitha, and Wulfhilda”

Kay Slocum, Capital University

The works of Goscelin of Canterbury include Vitae of three of the earliest and most revered abbesses of Barking--Ethelburga, Hildelitha, and Wulfhilda.  In addition to the Lives, Goscelin wrote two versions of the Translation of these saints; these accounts are divided into twelve lections, with one narrative being a condensation of the other.  The lections contain much fascinating information about the three abbesses, and deal, as well, with the problems of a fourth abbess, Alviva, in effecting the Translation. According to the Ordinale and Customary from the abbey [MS 169, University College, Oxford] the Translation of the abbesses was apparently celebrated twice during the year, on March 7 and September 23.  The ceremony of March 7 contains an incipit, which refers to the lections of Goscelin, indicating that his work was used as part of the liturgy. It is the purpose of this essay to analyze the Translation lections of Goscelin as hagiographical evidence, and to suggest a possible version of the service, tracing the ritual disposition within the architectural framework of the Barking Abbey church, and speculating as to how the work of Goscelin was incorporated in the ceremony.  


Last modified: May 6, 2009
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